To judge by the band’s live performances (as well as their recorded output), Two Cow is a band that shows its enthusiasm and love for the music and even the business of music.
We attended a metal show at Off Broadway; cleanly sandwiched in between two very loud metal bands was Two Cow Garage. Two Cow Garage is not a metal band; not even close. We stood out on the gravel lot with the trio and what would pass for their entourage (including Beatle Bob), passing time as the first act worked its way through its set. The act that was supposed to headline that night came over and explained that there must have been some kind of mistake. Two Cow certainly didn’t fit in, and would it be OK if they switched places with Two Cow so as to not confuse the audience. All in a day’s work for this traveling band.
Like Miranda Sound, Two Cow Garage is another unique sound from Columbus, Ohio. The trio is loud, raucous, and road-hardened (300-plus shows in little more than two years, nearly all of them played outside their hometown). They are truly a road band in their 1985 GMC van. Micah Schnabel (guitar/vocal), Shane Sweeney (bass/vocal), and Dustin Harigle (drums) have been many places in the last two years, except in their own apartment. In fact, they gave it up recently and now stay at their manager’s for the few days out of the month they are home.
Last year, the trio released their first album, Please Turn the Gas Back On. The earnest effort was recorded only six months after the band was formed. “That gave it a more polished feel,” says Schnabel, explaining the lack of grittiness that has come to personify their live shows. “We were looking for it not to sound like other records, but our record. But we are definitely a way better band now.” However, in the usual Two Cow modesty, he adds, “Whether we are good or not, I’m not sure, but I do know we are better than we were.”
To judge by the band’s live performances (as well as their recorded output), Two Cow is a band that shows its enthusiasm and love for the music and even the business of music. The seeds of Two Cow came from Bucyrus, Ohio, where Schnabel and Harigle went to school together. Harigle explains, “We learned how to play music together in high school. We were playing with another guy; basically, it was the only person we knew who played bass. Then Micah moved to Columbus, met Shane at an open mic, and [they] hit it off. I moved down like two days after. It was on that day that we started playing together.” Comparing notes, they even come up with the date: September 4. “We set up all the instruments even before I unpacked,” says Harigle. And so Two Cow Garage was born.
There is a definite intensity onstage, with shared vocals between Schnabel and Sweeney. Schnabel sounds like he gargles with the cigarettes that are nearly always with him. The emotion and urgency in his voice make him sound much older and wearier than his 21 years should yield. Sweeney offers a more nuanced sound, but no less agitated. When the two yelp the Beatles’ chestnut “Don’t Let Me Down,” you feel something from the song that eclipses even what Lennon and McCartney invested into it. In describing how their sound is formed, Schnabel suggests that each member “is something like a filter. We grew up in Ohio. My dad, who was a fan of John Prine, taught me how to play guitar.” Harigle interjects, “My parents were big fans of ’80s rock: Poison, Van Halen, Skid Row, Quiet Riot…” Without a beat, Sweeney adds his background to the mix: “My grandparents had a lot of old country stuff; my mom, Bob Dylan; me, a lot of Black Flag.”
As time for their performance approaches, the three reflect on their hometown and its growing music scene. Though it has spawned so many great bands, there are drawbacks, as well. “It would have hindered us if we had let it,” explains Schnabel. “We’ve been around enough to have seen bands be the flavor of the month and destabilize. We knew from the get-go that we were not going after Columbus and that we had bigger fish to fry.” Sweeney adds that it’s great “to have a show and have our friends come…some of them really like our music. But when we come to St. Louis (or some other town) and people come out, they come out because they want to hear the music and see us. It means more to us if 10 people show up because they want to see us than if 100 come out of obligation. I don’t think bands get that.”
Two Cow took to the stage after the club was safely metal-band free. About 20 people remained to see a blistering set that stretched into the early-morning hours. It was worth the wait. As the band was packing up to go, Schnabel left us with this thought: “You are going to love us or hate us. But get the hell out of our way!” The band will take some time in early spring to record a new album and then hit the road once again.
Two Cow Garage appears with Grand Champeen, Saturday, November 15, at Frederick’s Music Lounge as part of a Twangfest—and Playback St. Louis—sponsored event.